By Sydney Johnson
It was just hugs and clinking glasses at the corner of 16th and Valencia on Tuesday night as the San Franciscans gathered to watch and celebrate Gov. Gavin Newsom taking victory in the recall election.
“It’s so sad to see a party implode. Try again in a few decades, Republicans, ”Supervisor Rafael Mandelman said during an election night at Manny’s, a Mission restaurant and community space.
Moments later, the room would erupt into cheers as word flowed that Newsom was heading down a smooth path to victory. Less than an hour after the polls closed, news analysts began calling for Newsom, which garnered an overwhelming number of Democratic mail-in votes.
Even though the Delta variant is about persistence, voters in San Francisco wanted to celebrate in person. Just over 100 people showed up for the event and watched the election results, including city supervisors, local union leaders and voters who pulled over for a business during a nerve-wracking hour .
“It has been a really difficult year on many levels. The pandemic allowed people to explore what they couldn’t do in the 2020 election. We defeated Trump in 2020, but not Trumpism, ”said David Campos, vice chairman of the California Democratic Party.
But it was California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis who turned the mood from hope to victory.
“We beat the Republican recall. We did it! “She said.” I am thrilled. We did what we needed to do, we got the message out and ultimately California recognized that the choice here was between our Democratic Governor and Donald Trump’s values. A regional union president, SUIE Local 87, Olga Miranda echoed this sentiment, saying: “We are working hard, but we came together when we were attacked. It has been a struggle. But we claimed victory tonight.
Manny’s has served as a hub for political rallies in San Francisco, with events featuring the Mayor of San Francisco, London Breed, Julián Castro and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. The place itself has also faced its share of conflict. In 2019, local anti-Zionist activists organized a boycott against the establishment claiming its owner, Manny Yekutiel, was fueling gentrification with his business.
But the mood on Tuesday was cheerful. “Manny, you created a living room for us to be together for this,” Kounalakis said.
“It was really good to have a full house. It was the first time we’ve done this since the pandemic, ”said Yekutiel, who donned a blue sequin dress and Creulla-inspired wig while hosting the event.
For guests like Alex Melérez, the night was reminiscent of the evenings beforehand and the organization of events that he had missed during the closures linked to the pandemic.
“I miss the night before with other activists. Everyone here has issues that are close to them, ”he said, adding that affordable housing and immigration were two issues that were his priority when he voted“ no ”on the recall.
There is always room for improvement, but overall he said he was happy with the steps Newsom is taking to increase the state’s affordable housing stock and pave the way for immigrants to California.
“This state has led the way with supporting immigrants and I think Newsom can and will do more,” said Melérez, who has Mexican and Afghan origins.
Voters could have chosen between a whopping 46 alternative candidates who went to the polls. But one in particular, conservative radio host Larry Elder, has emerged as a favorite.
It quickly became a rallying point for some voters who told The Examiner that Elder’s promise to revoke COVID-19 security protocols and mandates, as well as his position that employers should be allowed to ask women if they are planning to get pregnant, were enough to get them to the polls.
But many voters the Examiner spoke to said they left the replacement candidate question blank, a strategy pushed by Newsom and other Democratic campaign advisers to avoid creating an attractive alternative that could split the Democratic vote, a result that occurred in the 2003 California recall election.
After playing down the recall effort for much of 2020 and into 2021, Newsom has received a swarm of support from top Democrats in recent weeks, including former President Obama, Vice President Kamala Harris and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
On Monday, President Joe Biden stopped by Long Beach City College to campaign with Newsom on the eve of the election, warning them that “Either you keep Gavin Newsom as governor or you will have Donald Trump.”
But even before the final tally, voters on Tuesday were light-hearted and ready to pass another California recall election.
“What is the 6th encore going on?” Event attendee Jorge Ordaz joked. “I feel 100% optimistic. I voted for Gavin and will vote for him again.
Reviewer author Benjamin Schneider contributed to this report.